Student-generated video as a means to teach bioethics

The second phase of my November tour has taken me to Naples, for the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics 9th World Conference on Bioethics, Medical Ethics and Health Law. I hope to find time to reflect more fully on the conference in the next few days.

In the meantime, I’ve provided a link to the slides from my presentation on the work we’ve been doing over the past six years, in which second year Medical Biochemists (and Medics) produce short videos about different aspects of biomedical ethics.

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Headline Bioethics

I have mentioned the Headline Bioethics project here previously, including links to a poster I presented at the Leicester Teaching and Learning event (January 2013) and again at the  Higher Education Academy STEM conference (April 2013).

A paper giving more details about the task was published last week in the journal Bioscience Education. The abstract states:

An exercise is described in which second year undergraduate bioscientists write a reflective commentary on the ethical implications of a recent biological/biomedical news story of their own choosing. As well as being of more real-world relevance than writing in a traditional essay format, the commentaries also have potential utility in helping the broader community understand the issues raised by the reported innovations. By making the best examples available online, the task therefore has the additional benefit of allowing the students to be genuine producers of resources.

This is not, incidentally, to be confused with the other activity I’ve been doing with a different cohort of second year students in which they produce short films about bioethics (the paper on that subject is forthcoming).

 

One day in Alzira…

It seems that November is shaping up as a bit of a European tour for me. Trips later in the months to Naples and Edinburgh have been on the cards for a while, but my friend and colleague Salvador Macip and I ended up popped to Alzira, Spain on November 8th for 24 hours. This unusual behaviour was prompted by our success in winning the European Prize for the Popularization of Science.

trophycrop2

This was the 19th year that the European Prize for the Popularization of Science has been awarded

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In praise of Psychology (as an A level)

Do you like Green Eggs and Ham?

Do you like Green Eggs and Ham?

I don’t think this warrant’s a spoiler alert, but if you don’t know the punchline of Green Eggs and Ham, you may want to skip to the next paragraph. In Dr Seuss’s classic book, the central protagonist is pestered by Sam-I-Am to try the eponymous delicacy. The man declines, insisting that he does not like green eggs and ham. When, however, he is finally persuaded to give it a try he find that, contrary to expectation, he is actually rather partial to this culinary concoction.

It seems to me that there are a good few people around who have a Green Eggs and Ham approach to A level Psychology. The Russell Group universities do not consider it in their list of “facilitating” (i.e. those it considers worthy-of-study) A level subjects*. Similarly, the snooty attitude of my elder son’s previous school in not offering Psychology was one of the main factors in the decision for him to move for his sixth form studies.

AS level psychology includes thorough evaluation of key studies

AS level psychology includes thorough evaluation of key studies

My suspicion, however, is that a significant proportion of those shunning Psychology have never actually looked into the content of the course. If they had done so, they might have been in for a pleasant surprise. Over the last few days, whilst helping the aforementioned sprog with his revision, I have been reminded of just how good the content of the AS level is (at least for the OCR specifications, I can’t speak for the course offered by the other boards).

The course is built around analysis of 15 classic studies. There are good descriptions of what has been done and why. However the feature for me that really makes the content valuable is the emphasis on evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of each study. The lessons about the importance of reliability and validity of data would be good grounding for students wanting to do a degree in any of the sciences. The discussion of ethical issues and, where applicable, what the investigators did to mitigate against them is also applicable for anyone intending to conduct research at any level.

On the basis of some of the manuscripts I’ve reviewed over the years, I couldn’t help feeling as well that there are a number of university-level teachers setting out for the first time to do pedagogic research who might usefully pick up on some of the do’s and dont’s of experimental design onto which this course sheds some light.

So, in short, I have had a Green Eggs and Ham conversion regarding A level Psychology and, with apologies to Dr Seuss, I say to  “the Russell Group” and others who dismiss it out of hand, “Try it, try it and you may. Try it and you may I say”. Oh, and if you really didn’t know the ending of GE&H… sorry.

*If you are interested the facilitating subjects are: Maths and further maths; Physics; Biology; Chemistry; History; Geography; Modern and classical languages; English Literature.

Institutional repositories, social media and academic publication: a simple experiment

Over at Science of the Invisible, my colleague Alan Cann has been reflecting on the contemporary landscape within academic publication. Specifically, he’s been thinking aloud about the role played by institutional repositories alongside (or, more radically, instead of) more formal journal publication (for example, see Wit’s End, which links in turn to Melissa Terras’ post What happens when you tweet an open access paper).

Institutional repositories are playing an increasingly important role in academic publishing

Prompted by Alan and Melissa’s enthusiasm for using social media to promote awareness of published work, in mid-November I started to use Twitter to advertise the existence of some of the papers I have deposited in the Leicester Research Archive (LRA). Some of my tweets were retweeted by others in the community, especially Alan, who also shared some of these within his Google+ circles.

Partway through this process it occurred to me that I had stumbled into a little experiment. So in the end I selectively tweeted about 8 of the 27 documents I currently have in the LRA. Admittedly these were probably the 8 papers that I felt were of most interest to the broader community on Twitter, but this did not mean they had previously received the most hits in the archive. In fact, if you rank the 25 works that had been in the Leicester repository throughout the 6 months (May to October 2011) from most to least popular,  then these 8 were ranked: 4th, 5th, 10th, 12th, 13th, 18th, 23rd and 24th= (2 documents were not added to the archive until November). Continue reading

What IS the most important scientific breakthrough of last fifty years?

 

It seems odd to accuse the BBC of “hiding” a television programme in a prime time slot on their flagship channel, but amidst the hype for their Christmas schedule I saw no advertising whatsoever for the latest Robert Winston vehicle How Science Changed Our World (BBC1, 20:00, 23rd December, 60 mins). This is a huge pity because the documentary shone an engaging spotlight on ten important scientific advances of the past 50 years.

Robert Winston chooses his list of the top ten scientific breakthroughs of the past 50 years

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Want to edit The Biochemist?

Teams of students have until 15th December to enter the competition (click image for more details)

The Biochemist is the magazine of the Biochemical Society. It carries a variety of interesting articles on molecular bioscience in themed issues, for example: poisons and antidotes, new types of microscopyscience and the media, and ethics (access to these articles is free, but you may be required to give an e-mail address the first time you visit). I think it is an excellent publication (conflict of interest declaration: I am on the editorial board).

The October 2010 edition on epigenetics was edited by a team of students from Oxford University who were picked from a short-list in an open competition. They’ve done such a good job that the competition is running again now, with the chance to edit the October 2011 edition. Teams of undergraduates, postgraduates and/or postdocs are invited to propose a theme for the magazine and suggest some topics that would be included. It is worth avoiding topics that have been covered recently or are to be covered in the next 12 months, including synthetic life, systems biology, the biochemistry of food, marine biology and gut metabolism. The deadline is 15th December 2010; contact editorial@biochemistry.org to register interest.

  • Awards

    The Power of Comparative Genomics received a Special Commendation

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